Thanks

Many thanks to everyone who took the survey about the first Futility Closet book. Most people seem to prefer a paperback, so I’ll work on that first, and I’ll also pursue an ebook. I haven’t yet found an efficient way to produce and distribute a hardcover book at a reasonable price, but I’ll keep looking.

I’ll organize the book as a miscellany, but I plan to include an index to help you find particular items. I’ll fill it with a representative sampling of the site’s best content, and I’ll include all the recurring features except probably for chess puzzles, which probably belong in a separate book — I’m hoping to produce specialized collections of unusual words, odd inventions, etc., in addition to broad miscellanies.

I think I may need some help with the ebook — if you have experience designing illustrated nonfiction ebooks in multiple formats, or can recommend someone who does, please contact me at gregblog@gmail.com. Thanks.

Dread Sovereign

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Victoriatothrone.jpg

After-dinner conversation with the young Queen Victoria, 1838, from Lytton Strachey’s 1921 biography:

‘Have you been riding to-day, Mr. Greville?’ asked the Queen. ‘No, Madam, I have not,’ replied Mr. Greville. ‘It was a fine day,’ continued the Queen. ‘Yes, Madam, a very fine day,’ said Mr. Greville. ‘It was rather cold, though,’ said the Queen. ‘It was rather cold, Madam,’ said Mr. Greville. ‘Your sister, Lady Frances Egerton, rides, I think, doesn’t she?’ said the Queen. ‘She does ride sometimes, Madam,’ said Mr. Greville. There was a pause, after which Mr. Greville ventured to take the lead, though he did not venture to change the subject. ‘Has your Majesty been riding today?’ asked Mr. Greville. ‘Oh yes, a very long ride,’ answered the Queen with animation. ‘Has your Majesty got a nice horse?’ said Mr. Greville. ‘Oh, a very nice horse,’ said the Queen.

“It was over. Her Majesty gave a smile and an inclination of the head, Mr. Greville a profound bow, and the next conversation began with the next gentleman.”

Unquote

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Parreiras-fim-de-romance-pi.jpg

“The mode of death is sadder than death itself.” — Martial

Confirmed

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crew_Cut,_Jack_Kerouac,_1943.jpg

Jack Kerouac typed the first draft of On the Road in three weeks on a 120-foot scroll of paper.

Truman Capote famously dismissed it, saying, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

In 2008, conceptual artist Simon Morris typed it again, publishing 400 words a day as a blog.

“One would hope for some truly profound response, but really there is none,” he said. “I don’t feel anything at all.”

All God’s Creatures

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:McCormack-MaryEllen_001a.jpg

In 1873, Methodist mission worker Etta Angell Wheeler learned that a 9-year-old girl was being confined by her adopted parents in the inner room of a New York tenement, alternately neglected and whipped, and that neither the landlord nor the city would respond to the neighbors’ pleas for help.

Wheeler was debating what to do when her niece suggested she appeal to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, saying, “She is a little animal, surely.” Wheeler mastered her fear of “what seemed absurd” and approached the organization’s founder, Henry Bergh, who took an immediate interest in the case and within 48 hours had gathered enough evidence to justify the girl’s removal.

At a trial at the New York State Supreme Court in 1874, the child, Mary Ellen Wilson, testified:

My father and mother are both dead. I don’t know how old I am. I have no recollection of a time when I did not live with the Connollys. Mamma has been in the habit of whipping and beating me almost every day. She used to whip me with a twisted whip — a rawhide. The whip always left a black and blue mark on my body. I have now the black and blue marks on my head which were made by mamma, and also a cut on the left side of my forehead which was made by a pair of scissors. She struck me with the scissors and cut me; I have no recollection of ever having been kissed by any one — have never been kissed by mamma. I have never been taken on my mamma’s lap and caressed or petted. I never dared to speak to anybody, because if I did I would get whipped. I do not know for what I was whipped — mamma never said anything to me when she whipped me. I do not want to go back to live with mamma, because she beats me so. I have no recollection ever being on the street in my life.

Her adopted mother, Mary Connolly, was sentenced to a year in jail, and the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was founded the same year.

Business News

What’s unusual about this paragraph, composed by Lawrence Cowan?

Trade was arrested as a base act after federated reserves regressed faster as extracted free trade was saved as extra reverted waste. Deserted as better fates were created, a few brave castes feared effects as excess stargazers were severed. Statecraft fretted, staggered, braced as steadfast braggarts beat state stewards, stewardesses. Tested as a great craze, trade traversed war; zest was dead as a few eager asses abated better treats, detested street fracases. Facts were effaced as we attested a great faded age.

Click for Answer

Untitled

This poem’s title is Untitled —
Not because it is untitled,
But because I am entitled
To entitle it Untitled.

If I’d not titled it Untitled,
It would truly be untitled …
Which would make me unentitled
To entitle it Untitled.

So it is vital, if untitled,
Not to title it Untitled,
And to leave that title idled,
As a title is entitled.

— Kenneth Leonhardt

Orders of Magnitude

http://www.tomvansant.com/id17.html

In 1980, artist Tom Van Sant arranged 90 mirrors in the Mojave Desert at angles precisely calculated to overexpose the sensors on NASA’s Landsat II satellite 600 miles overhead and produce the image of a human eye 2.5 kilometers wide.

Two years later Van Sant commissioned the National Research and Resource Facility for Sub-Micron Structures at Cornell to etch the image of an eye a quarter-micron wide into a salt crystal:

http://www.tomvansant.com/id17.html

The first image was 100,000 times larger than a human eye, the second 100,000 times smaller, two renderings of the same image that differ in scale by a factor of 10 billion.

“So the same artist who made the smallest drawing ever has also made the largest,” Richard Feynman told an audience. “Let’s go up another scale, the same amount again, another hundred thousand, and then try to draw an eye: Where would we have to draw it? Well, it turns out that it’s there — it’s a beautiful eye in the heavens, namely Saturn with her rings!”

More information at Van Sant’s website.

Black and White

roegner chess problem

By Johannes Adolf Roegner. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

First Principles

This prudence of not attempting to give reasons before one is sure of facts, I learnt from one of your sex, who, as Selden tells us, being in company with some gentlemen that were viewing, and considering something which they called a Chinese shoe, and disputing earnestly about the manner of wearing it, and how it could possibly be put on; put in her word, and said modestly, Gentlemen, are you sure it is a shoe? — Should not that be settled first?

— Benjamin Franklin, letter to Mary Stevenson, Sept. 13, 1760